We’ve reached the first 1/3 of the season, and like death and taxes, the one thing you can count is that Stephen Kenny’s Dundalk have continued their relentless form.
They remain one of just two sides unbeaten thus far, the other being Shamrock Rovers. The Lilywhites have scored the most goals (28) and conceded just five, making them the most feared, and revered team in Ireland at present.
Eleven games in, we’ve also learned that at the other end of the scale Limerick are really struggling now. They still remain the only club yet to have registered three points, having conceded a demoralising 25 goals in the process.
Joining Limerick near the lower reaches of the table are Bray, Sligo and Drogheda. It is Bray, the side which were unequivocally trounced by the league leaders 8-1 last time out, who will be hurting the most from last weekend’s action with a defeat of that measure likely to cause confidence to plummet.
Back at the top, and Shamrock Rovers have crept their way into second, just ahead of Cork City, following the Hoops’ 1-0 win over Drogheda and City’s draw in Dalymount in the last round of fixtures.
The Leesiders’ draw last Monday, combined with St. Pat’s winning comprehensively away at Galway means that the top five is as congested as ever.
Focus now turns to the next round of fixtures, as we witness a repeat of the opening day match-ups.
Friday, May 8th
Bohemians vs Limerick (kick-off 7:45pm)
The Dubliners have continued their massive strides forward under manager Keith Long, who’s rightly being praised for the manner in which he’s got his side playing.
Their dogged display against title-chasers Cork City on Monday last just went to show that Bohs have the capabilities to keep up their impressive performances for a long time to come.
Limerick have surprised League of Ireland aficionados in a different fashion, by not picking up a win yet this season. Although we knew it wasn’t going to be an easy ride for the Shannonsiders this year it still comes as a shock to see how much they’ve regressed.
A draw last weekend against Sligo and one before that against Shamrock Rovers is something to build on but they need to pick up a win quickly or they will be in even more trouble come the mid-season break.
Bohemians 2-0 Limerick
Cork City vs Sligo Rovers (kick-off 7:45pm)
This game now becomes a real test for the Leesiders in what is realistically the first time this season their credentials as title contenders has been thrown into doubt.
A late concession against Bohs last Monday and a poor second half showing means that the Leesiders have lost ground to Rovers, who now reside in second, albeit by just a point.
A reprieve from playing sides within the top five comes in the form of Sligo Rovers. Owen Heary’s men could have done with a win over Limerick last weekend, with a 1-1 draw suiting neither side.
This match is also just the beginning of a tough round of fixtures for the Bit O’ Red, with games against Drogheda, Derry, Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk all to come before June is out.
Cork City should return to winning ways for this one, despite injuries to Alan Bennett and John Dunleavy in recent times.
Cork City 3-1 Sligo Rovers
Derry City vs Galway United (kick-off 7:45pm)
Galway have the opportunity to move to within one point of Derry should they come out on top at the Brandywell. When both sides met on the opening day it was Peter Hutton’s side who ran out 2-1 winners.
After an up and down ten games since then, mid table just about fits the bill for the kind of season these teams are having.
Despite this, the Candystripes know they have the upper hand over the Tribesmen. There is already a clear gap emerging in the table between top and bottom and Derry won’t want to be left behind. One can see history repeating itself as Tommy Dunne’s men travel north.
Derry City 2-1 Galway United
Drogheda United vs Bray Wanderers (kick-off 7:45pm)
In what is the first of two games in just four days for Drogs – who travel to Cork on Monday night – they must face a wounded Seagulls side.
An 8-1 defeat, whether it’s against the champions or not, is cause for concern for Bray. It’s been as turbulent a beginning as they’ve seen in years, and just as it looked as though things were beginning to pick up, they have now gone on a three-game losing streak, conceding 16 goals in this recent nose dive.
Drogheda themselves suffered defeat at the hands of Shamrock Rovers last weekend but they will take heart from only losing by a solitary goal to the league’s second-placed side.
Drogheda United 2-1 Bray Wanderers
St. Patrick’s Athletic vs Shamrock Rovers (kick-off 7:45pm)
The final Friday fixture pits two of the league’s high performers against one another. The opening televised clash of the season was a solid barometer of what to expect this year but this game in Richmond Park now holds much more significance.
It’s fair to say that both sides are in and around where they would have set out to be at the beginning of the season, with Rovers still boasting an unbeaten record while Pat’s are just two points behind their Dublin counterparts.
The Saints will be confident of claiming three points from any opposition this season and even though they were beaten on the opening day by the Hoops, they will be confident of winning this game, particularly if the conditions are a little more conducive to attacking football this time around.
St. Patrick’s Athletic 1-1 Shamrock Rovers
Saturday, May 9th
Longford Town vs Dundalk (kick-off 7:30pm)
The First and Premier Division champions meet again in what should be an intriguing game. Dundalk have done what’s been expected of them up until this point while Longford are certainly punching above their weight.
This may be a touch disingenuous to Tony Cousins’ men, but even they would have scarcely believed they would sit above Derry, Sligo, and even bottom side Limerick, before the season began.
Do not expect a repeat of last week to come Dundalk’s way, however there is no looking beyond a Lilywhites victory here.
Stephen Kenny’s star men are insatiable in their will to win at the moment and although this could be viewed as another banker and a game when concentration may slip, one can’t see the Louth men taking their foot off the gas.
Longford Town 0-2 Dundalk
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena